In May 2011, after four years of life on McNutt's Island, we moved to Montreal. This blog remains, though, as a (sort of) daily record of our time on the island, and a winding path for anyone who would like to meander about among its magical places. For additional perspectives and insights I recommend Greg's book, Island Year: Finding Nova Scotia (2010), and my Bowl of Light (2012). I'll continue to post once in a while. If you do want to read this blog, one option would be to begin at the beginning of it (which is, as we all know, in blog-world, at the end), and read forward, concluding with the most recent entry. It's a journal, really, so it does makes more sense if you read it that way. But, you know, read it any way you like.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Namaste, White Throated Sparrow

I heard the song of this bird soon after we first came to McNutt’s Island in early May of 2007. I had heard its song before. But working outside on the island that spring, I heard it for the first time, not as background, but as if I were somehow being drawn into the heart of the world. Be here now, it sang. Be here now.

It left in the fall, and the island stilled in its absence. I longed for it, this bird whose name I didn’t yet know. I listened to recorded bird songs, looking for a needle in a haystack. Then somewhere I saw an odd remark about a particular bird whose song was similar to the opening notes of Handel’s Judas Maccabaeus. It was the White Throated Sparrow. 

Then a year ago we heard it sing again, on April 22nd. I could sometimes catch it, perched on a high bough of a spruce tree, singing, but I couldn’t see more than its profile. One day it came into the yard and began eating seed. He turned and gazed in my direction while I focused the binoculars and studied him from a few feet away. It had been a holy thing to learn the singer’s name, but it felt like entering upon the mystery of mysteries finally to know his face. I was shocked that this perky-looking creature was the tiny portal into such vast beauty. (You might think I would have gotten the idea of The Least Of These by now, but apparently not. Yet. Totally.)

His song begins with three notes, the second and third in descending intervals, followed by several notes identical to the final introductory note. Sometimes the song ascends rather than descends, and sometimes the preliminary notes are two rather than three. I have also heard a descending three notes, then two triads of quarter notes followed by two eighth notes.

Whatever the variation, the song of the White Throated Sparrow holds the essence of the world’s soul, and calls you to a place of deepest joy. Greg thought he heard him yesterday, and this morning we watched him masquerading as a commoner and eating seed among the Juncos and Song Sparrows in the side yard. So now we welcome back this most amazing creature. Namaste, I tell him. I bow to that which is holy in you. 

Image from Birds of Nova Scotia, courtesy of the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History.

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